“You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you,” penned Heraclitus of Ephesus.
Once associated with the ancient cycle and sacred rhythms of fertility, rivers have since gone on to symbolize ongoing progression of life and man’s journey to greater waters.
A representation of the flow of time and unavoidable transitions we must undergo to reach the next stage, rivers have been featured widely in the dreams and messages of seekers and prophets alike, and often used as metaphors for the hero’s journey.
Rivers do not flow in a straight line or easily-followed route; they wind and twist and often dry to mere streams in some parts, only to roar forth with raging currents later. They are unpredictable in all ways but one: they never stop flowing. So too must each of us keep going, no matter how fraught our way becomes or conversely sparse and unextraordinary.
There are many ways to pay homage to the river by way of tattoo art, and your tattoo artist will no doubt work to help you find the style and setting to suit your own individual narrative. You may opt for a river that winds its way around a part of your body, free-form style and with no end in sight; perhaps a backdrop of lush mountains or rolling hills would provide the context you desire. And maybe you DO want your end in sight: a vast open sea.
River tattoos are the mark of a man who is finding his way in the world, wary of his route but never bound to curves and currents set before him. He knows when to fight the waters and when to move with them, and never doubts the rewarding fate that awaits him at the end.